By Sarah Parish (Volunteer, United Kingdom)
Since 2008, Mary Koomson has been a valued member of the Global Mamas batiking team. Mary’s passion for her work is not only evidenced in the 12 years she has spent perfecting her skills but also in the smile that spreads across her face as she discusses overcoming the challenges associated with her trade.
Mary comes from a family of seamstresses but broke away from this tradition by pursuing her interest in batiking at vocational college. As shown in the impressive work she regularly produces for Global Mamas, Mary understands the need for hands on experience when learning the art of batiking, and as a result invites local batiking students to leave their books behind and practice dyeing and stamping for themselves. Mary speaks warmly and passionately when talking about the importance of passing on her skills to the next generation, and suggests that one day when she retires as a Global Mama she will continue to teach those who are eager to learn.
Sitting in her workshop surrounded by pots and dyes, stamps and fabric, there is a calm order and not a hint of chaos that one might expect in a place where such color and creativity is brought to life. Mary credits this to the Fair Trade advice she received on becoming a Mama. Mary speaks proudly of how she now knows how to dispose of excess dye in a way to reduce any negative impact on the environment, and the steps she takes to protect herself and her employees from harm, for example something as simple as wearing rubber gloves and an apron when dyeing the fabric.
With Global Mamas, Mary has met a group of like-minded women, working hard and to an extremely high standard to produce top quality merchandise. While there are daily hurdles and challenges to overcome as is the case in all walks of life and all forms of business, Global Mamas as a project and Mary as a member of a dynamic workforce are successfully creating products to be taken out of Ghana and loved by customers from all around the world.
Global Mamas offers batiking workshops and as one of the teachers, Mary has encouraged many locals and visitors with an enthusiastic and engaging teaching style. In particular Mary becomes animated when she mentions a group of Global Mamas interns from the USA who worked with her for a week creating their own unique pattern stamps. It is a credit to Mary’s teaching ability and the creativity of the interns that the new patterns have since been incorporated into the 2012 catalog!